•Situation room, others fault off-cycle elections
•HURIWA warns voter apathy may soar in future if INEC isn’t unbundled or reformed
•Tinubu, Buhari, APC, PDP governors congratulate winners
•PDP, LP candidates insist Imo poll must be cancelled
Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Adedayo Akinwale, Folalumi Alaran in Abuja, Sylvester Idowu in Warri, Ibrahim Oyewale in Lokoja and Tony Icheku in Owerri
There was spontaneous and widespread jubilation in Bayelsa State, yesterday, after the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) returned Governor Douye Diri as the duly elected governor of the state for another term of four years.
The INEC returning officer for the gubernatorial election in the state, Professor Farouk Kuta, said Diri scored the highest number of lawful votes in the poll
The governor, in his first reaction to his re-election, expressed gratitude to God and the people of the state for the honour of returning him for another term. He said the victory was for the whole Bayelsa, stressing that he would be governor for the entire people of the state, irrespective of political affiliation.
In the results announced in Yenagoa, Diri polled a total of 175,196 votes to defeat his closest rival, Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who scored 115,262 votes. He won in six of the eight local government areas of the state, while Sylva clinched Brass and Nembe local government areas.
But the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room said it was deeply disappointed with the conduct of last Saturday’s off-cycle governorship elections in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa, stressing that the exercises “fell far below the threshold of credible elections”.
Centre for Democracy and Development’s Election Analysis Centre (CDD-EAC), in its analysis of the elections, released a damning report, which highlighted a disconcerting array of abuses and irregularities during the exercise.
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) said the outcome of last weekend’s off-cycle elections in Imo, Bayelsa and Kogi could trigger mass boycott of subsequent elections unless the electoral management body, INEC, was unbundled and reformed.
Nevertheless, President Bola Tinubu, former President Muhammadu Buhari, and the governors of both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) congratulated winners in the elections.
Relatedly, the governorship candidate of PDP in Imo State, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, and his Labour Party (LP) counterpart, Senator Athan Achonu, yesterday, reiterated their calls for the cancellation of the November 11 governorship election in the state, describing it as charade and rape of democracy
Addressing the media in Yenagoa, Diri expressed appreciation to PDP at all levels and members of his campaign team for working diligently to spread his message of progress and unity throughout the campaigns.
However, the governor urged his party faithful and well-meaning Bayelsans to celebrate with temperance, saying the victory is for the entire state, and even those who voted for other parties helped to enrich the democratic culture.
Diri assured people of the state that he would continue to operate an all-inclusive government, insisting that he would be governor for all, irrespective of political divides, while serving with dedication, integrity and transparency.
He thanked President Bola Tinubu for creating the enabling environment for free, fair and credible poll in the state, and appreciated the security agencies and INEC for their display of professionalism during the election.
The governor also expressed appreciation to former President Goodluck Jonathan, former Governor Seriake Dickson, as well as party leaders and governors that were present during the election. He equally appreciated former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; former Governors Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta State) and Nyesom Wike (Rivers) for their invaluable support; as well as Governors Agbu Kefas (Taraba), Sheriff Oborevwori (Delta), Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa), Godwin Obaseki (Edo), and Seyi Makinde (Oyo).
Situation Room, Others Fault Off-cycle Elections
However, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room said following what it observed during the last general election, which were repeated in the off-cycle elections, INEC, as presently constituted, seemed overwhelmed and incapable of organising a credible and transparent election.
Situation Room is a group made up of over 50 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country.
Presenting the final report of the observer group on the elections at a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, Co-Convener of the Situation Room, Yunusa Ya’u, said the off-cycle elections in Imo, Kogi, and Bayelsa states were riddled with lapses and electoral malpractices, which INEC ignored and went ahead to declare the results.
It demanded an independent audit of the elections, including the last general election, to find out the extent of damage the lapses and malpractices might have done to the country’s democracy.
Stated, “Situation Room is deeply disappointed with the conduct of the governorship elections that held in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states and worries that the elections fell far below the threshold of credible elections.
“These represent a major setback in Nigeria’s democratic development. Situation Room calls on INEC to fully review the elections in Kogi and Imo states to identify the incidents of malpractices that took place and reflect the genuine will of the people
“Situation Room is reiterating its earlier call for an independent audit of elections administration in Nigeria and compliance with electoral law by INEC.”
Ya’u said Situation Room received reports of falsification and mutilation of polling unit level results in the three states, adding that INEC also acknowledged incidents of pre-filled result sheets before the commencement of polls in five local government areas in Kogi State.
“Yet, INEC has gone ahead to collate results from these LGAs without conducting any thorough investigation and making its findings public. This is condemnable,” he said.
With respect to Imo State, Ya’u, alleged that INEC transmitted result for polling unit where the election was not held, and that politicians attempted to exploit INEC’s weakness to tamper with results, especially in Brass, Sagbema, Southern Ijaw and Nembe local government areas..
In addition, Situation Room said the commercialisation of the election appeared to have reached unprecedented heights, with parties and their agents offering amounts ranging from N1, 000 to N30, 000 along with cooked and uncooked items, to voters.
On its part, Centre for Democracy and Development’s Election Analysis Centre (CDD-EAC) shed light on key challenges that cast a shadow over the electoral process. CDD-EAC made the observation when its Chairman, Professor Adele Jinadu, presented a report of the centre at a briefing in Abuja.
Jinadu said the report underscored the urgent need for electoral reforms, and emphasised the urgency for political parties to assume more responsible roles. He called for collective effort to strengthen and safeguard the democratic process.
CDD-EAC chairman stated, “The report highlighted ‘Abuse of Incumbency’ as a major concern, with governing parties wielding power to gain unfair advantages. Tactics, such as unequal access to state electronic media, misuse of state resources for electioneering, and manipulation of party primaries, diminished the credibility of the off-cycle elections.
“Identity politics played a pivotal role in the nomination process, taking forms, such as ethnic configurations and geographical zoning. The danger lies in the potential for such politics to escalate into ethnic profiling and violent conflicts, further jeopardising the democratic process.
“Voter inducement was prevalent, including instances of vote-buying in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi. Alleged distribution of goods and cash, as well as financial transactions involving INEC ad-hoc staff, raised serious concerns about the integrity of the electoral process.
“Information disorder added complexity to the challenging electoral landscape, with disinformation circulating, creating confusion with false claims of candidate withdrawals and disqualifications.”
Jinadu also stated, “Insecurity and violence were witnessed amid political conflicts, cultism, and insurgencies. Incidents of violence, including alleged ballot snatchings and violent altercations at collation centres, heightened fears around the security of the electoral process.
“Institutional challenges were noted, as INEC faced delays, technical glitches, and result sheet issues. While security agencies appeared effective on election day, the failure of political parties to manage disputes emerged as a significant threat to electoral democracy.”
Equally addressing some of the failings of the elections, HURIWA said part of the reform process needed to reposition the electoral management body was a wholesome overhaul of the legal frameworks on the constitution of the management of INEC to isolate and free it totally from the stranglehold of the executive arm of government.
HURIWA said such overhaul should include making the appointment of the INEC chairman and commissioners to go through public scrutiny, while appointments should be done by an independent body of patriots to be drawn from the public and private sectors.
HURIWA also said the speed with which election results in Imo State were collated and announced, even when no elections took place in about four local government areas in Orlu and Okigwe senatorial zones, showed that INEC had persisted in electoral crimes because of past impunity.
In a statement by its national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, HURIWA cited a report by YIAGA Africa, which monitored the election in Imo State and reported that cases of unverified results uploaded by INEC were prevalent in Orsu, Okigwe, Oru East, and Orlu local government areas.
Onwubiko stated, “Yiaga said it monitored the upload of results on the IReV, especially those from polling units where elections did not hold. For Orsu LGA in Imo, Yiaga Africa’s WTV observers reported that the election did not take place in nine sampled polling units in the LGA. There were speculations that INEC may have relocated all polling units to the LGA headquarters on election day.”
HURIWA recalled that Yiaga Africa also said voters in Orsu local government area were not informed of the change in polling unit location and INEC failed to issue an official statement on the supposed temporary relocation of polling units.
In Okigwe, Yiaga Africa observers reported that elections did not occur in eight sampled polling units, HURIWA stated.
It said, “In Oru East LGA, the election was not held in eight of Yiaga Africa’s sampled polling units. In addition, elections were not held in seven of our sampled polling units in Orlu LGA and in one (1) of our sampled polling units each in Ideato North, Ikeduru, Oru West and Owerri West LGAs.”
HURIWA then affirmed, “INEC is populated by far too many electoral robbers, so much so that it will take clinical overhauling of the personnel and the injection of incorruptible and patriotic electoral managers, for prospective voters not to boycott en masse any other election to be conducted by the present INEC that is severely ethically challenged and corrupt. INEC, as presently constituted, is deeply infested by the bug and virus of corruption and inefficiency.”
Tinubu, Buhari, APC, PDP Govs Greet Winners
Tinubu, Buhari, and governors of both the ruling APC and the main opposition PDP congratulated winners in the elections.
Tinubu, who specifically congratulated Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, his Bayelsa State counterpart, Douye Diri, and the governor-elect of Kogi State, Usman Ododo, also commended INEC for a good job.
According to a release by his media aide, Ajuri Ngelale, Tinubu affirmed the resilience of democratic institutions and the power of the people in shaping the country’s political landscape. He said the outcome of the elections reflected the wishes of the people, emphasising that democracy thrives when voters reward competence, transparency, and good governance.
While expressing gratitude to INEC for creating a level playing ground for all contestants and the security agencies for maintaining law and order during the highly-anticipated off-season elections, the president further affirmed the need for a sustained commitment to all efforts aimed at sanitising the electoral system and enhancing the credibility of future elections.
With the election process concluded, Tinubu anticipated a renewed sense of hope for the people of the three states, as well as consolidation on the progress that would position the states as hubs of peace, commerce, entrepreneurship, and prosperity in Nigeria.
To try to foster the spirit of harmonious and inclusive governance in the states, the president asked the winners to prioritise the common good of the people over partisan interests.
He added, “May your tenure in office be defined by close collaboration with all of your counterparts across party lines in the attainment of pan-Nigerian developmental achievements that benefit everyone, and may you lead at all times with compassion and a deepened commitment to our nation’s unity.”
Buhari Congratulates APC
Former President Muhammadu Buhari congratulated APC on winning the governorship elections in Imo and Kogi states. He thanked the people of the two states for reaffirming their confidence in the country’s biggest political party.
The ex-president, in a release by his spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu, thanked particularly the party leaders and the workers, who laboured tirelessly to ensure the re-election of Senator Hope Uzodinma for a second term in Imo State, and Alhaji Usman Ododo as the new governor of Kogi State.
“My best wishes to them for their next tenure,” Buhari stated.
Ododo Thanks Kogi People, Says He’d Prioritise Unity, Shared Prosperity
Kogi State Governor-elect, Ododo Usman, expressed his gratitude to the people of the state for entrusting his team with the responsibility of leading the state.
In a statement in Lokoja, Ododo told the people of Kogi State, “Your unwavering support has been the driving force behind our efforts to uplift Kogi to greater heights.
“Together, we embark on a historic journey to build a united and prosperous community of people with a common destiny. Your trust is a compass guiding us in our commitment to enthroning a transparent, accountable and inclusive governance.
“As we sail the ship to new frontiers, I am confident that our collective determination will yield positive outcomes for every citizen of our dear state.
“I appreciate the diverse perspectives and contributions from stakeholders, who played a crucial role in shaping our policies and decisions. Your dedication reinforces the collaborative spirit that defines our vision for Kogi State.
“Special appreciation to the national leader of our party and President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, for creating an atmosphere of peace and a level playing ground for all the contestants.”
The governor-elect stated regarding Tinubu, “From the moment you handed me the flag, I knew I would be successful. You remain a platform of success for millions around our nation and our administration will work closely with the federal government under your leadership, just like our leader, His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, is currently doing to bring development to our dear state.”
PDP Governors Say Good Stewardship Won Diri Victory
The PDP Governors’ Forum, yesterday, congratulated Senator Douye Diri on his re-election as Governor of Bayelsa State. The PDP governors believed that good stewardship by the governor in his first term won him the people’s votes.
In a statement by Director General of the forum, Cyril Maduabum, the party said the victory was well-deserved one.
The PDP governors said it was victory and validation for hard work, good governance engendered by enthroning a culture of peaceful coexistence, unity, progressive and people-oriented, and people-driven agenda. They commended Diri for his fair-mindedness and even spread of infrastructure projects to all sections and segments of the state in his first term.
PDP governors acknowledged Diri’s peace initiatives across the state and party immediately on assumption of office in 2019, which created the enabling environment for his development projects and programmes to thrive.
Sanwo-Olu: APC Victories Testament to Good Governance
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, congratulated the Kogi State APC candidate, Ahmed Usman Ododo, on his victory at Saturday’s gubernatorial election in the state.
Sanwo-Olu, who was a member of the APC National Campaign Council for the Kogi State governorship election, described Ododo’s landslide victory as a testament to the good work the Governor Yahaha Bello APC administration had done in the state.
In a congratulatory message by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, Sanwo-Olu said Ododo’s victory was well-deserved and a clear manifestation that APC remained the party of choice for Nigerians at the local, state and federal levels.
Sanwo-Olu commended the people of Kogi State, particularly the electorate, for coming out to perform their civic responsibility and for defying all odds to vote for the APC governorship candidate.
He stated, “Ododo’s victory is a clear indication that the APC and its government under the able leadership of Governor Yahaya Bello have delivered beyond expectations of the people of Kogi State. I, therefore, believe it was only natural for the citizens to reciprocate by voting for our party.”
Akeredolu: Peaceful Poll Reflects Political Maturity
Chairman of the South West Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ondo State, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), described last Saturday’s off-season gubernatorial elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states as a triumph for democracy and focused leadership. Akeredolu stated this in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Richard Olatunde.
The governor congratulated Governor-elect Usman Ododo (Kogi) and the re-elected incumbent, Sen. Hope Uzodinma (Imo), all of APC. He said their victories signified the people’s endorsement of their leadership, and entrusted them with the responsibility of steering their respective states towards prosperity.
Akeredolu said the elections underscored the increasing trust in Nigeria’s electoral process, and added that the process affirmed the democratic gains and highlighted the ongoing improvements in the electoral system.
He stated, “The peaceful conduct of the elections reflects our political maturity and determination to eliminate violence throughout the electoral process. Acknowledging the complexities of our democratic journey, it is gratifying to note that, despite isolated disturbances, these elections uphold the core tenets of our democratic values.
“In applauding the winners, I commend the diligent efforts of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). INEC’s unwavering commitment to improvement was evident in the commendable performance during the Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa elections. We anticipate the commission sustaining this impressive trajectory as we strive to meet the aspirations of our people for enhanced progress.”
Oborevwori: Victory Reward for Diri’s Humility
Delta State Governor Sheriff Oborevwori congratulated his Bayelsa State counterpart, Senator Douye Diri, on his re-election in last Saturday’s governorship election.
Oborevwori, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sir Festus Ahon, in Asaba, yesterday, described the re-election as “the reward for Diri’s humility, hard work and good governance”. He commended the people of Bayelsa State for standing by their governor when it mattered most.
He stated that the electorate across the eight local government areas of the state spoke loudly and very clearly in their affirmation of their choice of Diri as governor of the state.
Oborevwori noted that the re-election of Diri signposted the reality of PDP’s determination to entrench prosperity in the oil-rich state, saying, “Better days await Bayelsans.”
Obaseki: Diri Re-election a Win for Democracy
Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, congratulated Diri on his re-election in Saturday’s governorship election.
Obaseki said, in a statement, that the victory was well-deserved on account of Diri’s outstanding performance in the last four years. He stated that the people’s power, as expressed during the poll, remained the most potent force in any democracy.
The governor stated, “I heartily congratulate my brother and friend, Senator Douye Diri, on his re-election as the governor of Bayelsa State.
“Your well-deserved victory is a testament to your excellent performance in office in the last four years. It is a win for democracy, the people of Bayelsa State, and our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and also validates that truly, power belongs to the people.”
IYC Celebrates Diri’s Victory
The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Worldwide described Diri’s victory as a testament to his wide acceptance and his developmental strides, which endeared him to the people.
President of IYC Worldwide, Dr. Alaye Theophilus, in a statement, urged the governor to continue with his lofty ideas and policies in bringing the needed development to Bayelsa State.
The statement said, “Your Excellency, your victory has demonstrated the unwavering love by the people, which, no doubt, was evident at the poll.
“Your victory at the poll was a testament of his wide acceptance and your developmental strides, which has endeared you to the people. Your dedication and leadership style have earned you the trust of the people.”
IYC also commended INEC for conducting one of the most credible, free and fair elections in Bayelsa State and for maintaining their professionalism as an unbiased umpire.
PDP, LP Insist Imo Election Must Be Cancelled
The governorship candidate of PDP in Imo State, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, and that of LP, Athan Achonu, yesterday, reiterated their calls for the cancellation of Saturday’s governorship election in the state, describing it as charade and rape of democracy
At a joint press conference in Owerri, Anyanwu and Achonu rejected the declaration of Uzodimma of AP)as winner of the poll, arguing that “the result does not reflect the will of the people and should be reviewed in the overall interest of the people and the Nigerian democracy.”
The LP and PDP gubernatorial candidates also accused APC, INEC staff and the security agencies of conniving to manipulate the process, “thereby subverting mandate of the people for their preferred choice.”
They urged INEC Chairman, Professor Yakubu Mahmood, to review the result or cancel outright the election to allow the people elect the governor of their choice.
Achonu said, “Aside the obvious malpractices, the election results were preloaded around 10am even when voting was still ongoing at the various polling units.
“From all that we know, we have written to the INEC chairman for a total review of that election, so that whoever is the victor will be announced.
“What happened last Saturday in Imo State is not an election. It was a war against the people. It is a rape on democracy. So shameful and undemocratic.”